Mid Ulster MLA Sandra Overend has called on the Executive to move more swiftly on a cross departmental Internet Safety Strategy, after worrying figures that show a rise in online grooming from Childline.
The children’s charity said that over the last year it had seen a 24 per cent increase in the number of children between 12-15 that were worried about sexual abuse, with two-thirds being girls.
Mrs Overend, UUP, said: “New figures released from Childline provide a worrying picture of the potential harm many children and young people face online.
“With more children and young people using laptops, tablets and smart phones to access the internet, much of the online sexual abuse taking place goes unseen and unreported.
“This rise in online grooming is highlighted by Childline which provided 164 counselling sessions with children from Northern Ireland concerned about online sexual abuse last year.
“I welcome the ‘Listen to Your Selfie’ campaign and hope that it encourages children and young people to be more aware of the risks of engaging in online activity.
“I commend NSPCC, Barnardos, PSNI, and SBNI for working closely to tackle this pressing issue. For some time now I have campaigned for a cross departmental Internet Safety Strategy, and last week I asked the Minister of Health for an update on the progress of on this important strategy. I am still waiting for an answer and it is not acceptable for the Executive to continue to twiddle its thumbs while figures on online sexual abuse continue to rise.”
Children and young people can contact Childline for free, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.